tv Hardball With Chris Matthews MSNBC August 20, 2009 7:00pm-8:00pm EDT
congressional leaders asking that his seat be temporarily filled in the event it's necessary not by a special election but by appointment by the governor until that election is held. why wouldn't the governor do this for him? and finally, what separates john ensign's affair from bill clinton? ensign has the answer for us. that's in the "hardball sideshow" tonight. we begin with the revelation by former homeland security secretary tom ridge that top bush administration officials pushed him to raise the terror threat level in the weekend just before the 2004 presidential election. here was the scene that friday before the election in 2004. members of the bush administration's national security team assembled to weigh the u.s. response to a new bin laden videotape. here is how ridge described the meeting. quote, a vigorous some might say dramatic discussion ensued. ashcroft strongly urged an increase in the threat level and was supported by rumsfeld. there was absolutely no support from that position within our department. that's homeland security. none.
i wondered, is this about security or politics? post election analysis had demonstrated a significant increase in the president's approval rating in the days after the raising of the threat level. ridge wrote, quote, it seemed possible to me and others around the table that something could be afoot other than simple concern about the country's safety. the idea of raising the threat level was ultimately dropped, ultimately, and ridge said, quote, i believe our strong interventions had pulled the go up advocates back from the brink, but i consider that episode to be not only a dramatic moment in washington's recent history, but another illustration of the intersection of politics, fear, credibility, and security. after that episode i knew i had to follow through on my plans to leave the federal government. wow. it's all in this new book that's coming out in two weeks. we got an advance copy. i'm looking at it right now. let's turn right now to democratic congressman jim moran
of virginia and "newsweek" investigative reporter michael isikoff. congressman, what does this say to you reading this new book by tom ridge? >> i could tell you i'm proud i consider myself a good friend of tom ridge's. he's a thoughtful, credible professional. i don't think the bush administration deserved to have him among their ranks, and i do think that it was pretty obvious that they were politicizing these threat alert levels, as they were just about everything they did over the eight years. it wasn't a matter of making the country particularly safer. it was a matter of improving bush's poll numbers and eventually they overreached and undid themselves. >> mike isikoff, you're an expert on conspiracies in this administrations just passed. what do you make of these quotes? you've written a best-seller. you take great care when you make accusations like this. is this about security or politics he asked himself. it seemed possible to me and to others at the table that something could be afoot other than simple concern for the country's safety.
he's accusing his colleagues, rumsfeld and ashcroft, et cetera, of trying to hype something to help the president get re-elected and to keep their jobs. >> well, look, the question he's raising there, was this about politics or security, was a question that everybody in the media and many people in government and politics were raising every time we went through the terror alerts during that period. just take a step back and you look at everything that was going on in 2004, i had a top bush strategist who worked on that campaign who told -- who said last year that was a campaign we never should have won, an election we never should have won. iraq was going south. escalating casualties. the revelations about abu ghraib. the revelations in the senate intelligence committee about how the administration had stretched the intelligence in the run up to the war in iraq. the 9/11 commission hearings showing how so many people inside the white house were asleep at the switch at the time
that the president got the pdb, bin laden prepared to strike the u.s. what saved the election for george w. bush in 2004? it was the threat of another terrorist attack and the continuous threat alerts. now, that is simply -- that was the view of inside the bush campaign itself. it doesn't mean there weren't genuine security fears during this time. there were. but because of the highly politicized atmosphere, because of the track record the bush administration had demonstrated, particularly in the run up to the war in iraq, there were widespread suspicions as to whether or not these constant terror threat alerts were, indeed, genuine or whether they were influenced by politics. >> and as secretary ridge points out in this brand new book, we've got the advance copy, every time they pushed that panic button and code orange went up, they knew they got more poll voltage out there. let's look at the exit polls coming out of 2004 presidential
election that makes your point, michael isikoff. 19% of voters consider terrorism the most important issue. of them 86%, this was a wipeout, this was a shutout basically for the president, 86% to 14% on this issue. every time terror got into people's heads, it helped the president. congressman moran, it seems to me, i even saw another poll, you probably saw it back then, 49% of the country, just about half, said the only guy who could protect them was bush. so every time that panic button went orange or red even, they gained. >> doesn't it remind you of that old story, the boy who cried wolf? there's only so many times you can do that, and then you lose your credibility, and that was tom's concern. he wanted to maintain the credibility of his agency and of the professionals who were working in his agency, and he understood that as the white house politicized what they were doing, then when they do have a real alert, when it is an orange or red alert, then people are less likely to take it seriously. the country is less likely to
respond. that was tom's concern, and unfortunately it clearly wasn't the white house's concern. their concern was getting this guy re-elected regardless of the fact that they were undermining the credibility of the department of homeland security and really threatening the real security of our nation. >> let's take a look at this. in august of 2004, that's several months earlier than the election, the terror threat level was raised for five financial institutions in new york, washington, and newark, new jersey. here is what tom ridge said at the time when asked about those who suspected the threat level was being politicized. let's listen to secretary ridge back in august of 2004. >> i wish i could give them all top secret clearances and let them review the information some of us have the responsibility to review. we don't do politics in the department of homeland security. >> mike isikoff, we don't do it, but others in that cabinet room did. here we have a new book out. i want you to give me a reading on this book. when you pick it up and you find
these words and you read in it where he says, let's say, is this about security or politics? then he answers his own question. says i believe our strong intervention saved us from going ahead to this higher brink, but i consider this episode to be not only a dramatic moment in walk's recent history but another illustration of the intersection of politics, fear, credibility, and security. after this episode i knew i had to follow through on my plans to leave the federal government. pretty strong language. i had to quit after i saw the games that were being played. >> it is, although i'm glad you played that clip from august of '04 because i think a lot of us always thought that that orange terror alert, which tom ridge totally endorsed, actually did as much to change the momentum of the election as any other single event. that came within days after the end of the democratic convention. it totally stopped john kerry's
bounce, crushed his bounce coming out of that convention, and, you know, and turned an election that kerry at that point was ahead in the polls, was poised to win, and began the swing back towards bush. so ridge, you know, doesn't -- if you believe that these terror alerts were largely political or had too much politics in it, ridge doesn't have clean hands here. he was a part of it. it's also worth, you know, pointing out in context that the threat alert that he says he resisted on the eve of the election came right after the release of a new osama bin laden tape and the release of another follower in afghanistan who was warning about blood flowing in
the street. so there was, in fact, stuff going on that had security people concerned during this time. so i don't think we should completely dismiss everything that was going on. >> but in the book, he says and he stands by the book. he says that those comments, the videotape by osama bin laden was the same old crap he'd been coming out with for years. there was nothing new in there. his hatred of the west and president bush was not news or was it increasingly threatening. congressman moran, let me read you another quote that's grabbed me. it also seemed possible to me and to others around the table, that was in the situation room when they were considering that tape, that something could be afoot other than simple concern about the country's safety. that's a very nice way of saying i think politics -- >> diplomatic. he's trying to be diplomatic. i think he feels much the way colin powell feels. they were -- anyone that had real credibility, they were willing to use and abuse to the point that those people lost their credibility.
colin powell i think lost much of his, unfortunately. he was manipulated by the administration, and it's clear that tom was as well. i'm sure tom would wish that he had stood up, but if he had not said what he said, i don't think they would have included him. they would have had the white house spokesperson say something and they would have let him go. you know, these guys were cutthroat. they had one objective in mind, get the president-elected. everything else was dispensable, including the most credible people in their administration. >> mike isikoff, how many hours will pass before dick cheney comes out and dumps on this book? >> i don't know. dick cheney may have other things he wants to dump on right now. we're getting on monday the release of the cia inspector general report which i'm told is going to be devastating -- going to have some devastating revelations in it about the interrogation program. i think there's a lot that dick cheney is going to want to be rebutting over the next few days.
you know, i don't know how much the ridge thing will factor into that, but let me just make one more point on the ridge stuff. you know, just to underscore how heightened and politicized the atmosphere was during that period, i do remember there was actually even suggestions that because of the election year threats, there was a memo written that was forwarded to the justice department suggesting that the election -- there should be contingency plans for calling off the election in the event of a terrorist attack, and, you know, that does give you some idea of some of the thinking that was going on at that time. >> well, sometimes i love it when things are what they look like. congressman moran, thank you for coming on the show and giving us the reaction to this blockbuster new book by tom ridge, the
secretary of homeland security, wherein he argues his colleagues were ready to hype up the threat to this country on the weekend before the 2004 election which president bush won by ohio. congressman jim moran, thank you. thank you, mike isikoff. coming up, as his party plummets in the polls, president obama takes to the airwaves to fight for his struggling health care reform plan. he talked to michael smerconish's radio audience on this afternoon. we'll have michael on to talk about what the president said today. can he get back control of this debate? we have michael smerconish coming up next. you're watching "hardball" only on msnbc.
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1993-'94 when clinton came in. he failed on health care and then we won in the mid-term elections and we got the majority. and i think there's some folks who are taking a page out of that playbook. >> that's president obama today talking to syndicated radio host and msnbc contributor michael smerconish. he joins us now. michael, we're going to look at some polls right now to show you how bad this thing is for the president. it's a new pew poll. two-thirds of the country think the president obama and republican leaders are not working together. among those two-thirds, 17% of them blame the president compared to 7% back in february. so he's losing ground there. republicans are holding it just under 30%. now for party favorability. look at this. the democrats are down below 50% for the first time. republicans holding at 40%. in other words, their slash and burn attacks on the president haven't hurt them an inch. that would tell me as a republican, if i were a republican activist, i would say keep on the fire, keep the flame thrower aimed directly at the white house. we're not losing, he is.
right? >> well, what's -- what's amazing to me about those numbers is that the republicans are seeing that gain or at least devaluing the president's numbers without really offering an alternative. >> right. >> in other words, it's not as if there's a gop plan out there that's gaining favor. it's that his is being torn down. >> so do only harm is their oath. do only harm and it seems to be working. here is more of the president today on your show, must have been quite an honor. you and i are friends and i know what an honor it is to meet with any president and sit in the president's own presence at the white house and spend that time with him. you're smiling because you ought to be. what a get it was for you. let's watch and listen to the president on your program today. >> the press got a little excited and some folks on the left got a little excited about this. our position hasn't changed. we think that the key is cost, control, competition, making sure the people have good quality options. if we're able to achieve that, that's the end that we're seeking, and the means we can have some good arguments about
what the best way to achieve it is, but we have to change because the status quo is unsustainable. >> will that calm talk work now, michael? >> well, that question -- pardon me, that answer was in response, i think, chris, to my first question which was to say did secretary sebelius misspeak last weekend? is there some change now afoot relative to the position on the public option? and that was the president explaining to me that he believes the media had made a mountain out of a molehill, that things she said on sunday were very consistent with what has been said and is still being said by the administration. so he was very much trying to keep up at least the public posture that the public option is out there and alive. >> what's the public make of this? that the president is waffling? >> i don't know that the public respectfully really understands the public option versus single payer versus a co-op. i think the public has this perception, many i hear from, what i wanted to convey is there's a perception among many,
at least many talk radio listeners, that the government under his watch wants everything, wants involvement in the automotive industry, wants involvement in the banks, and wants involvement in health care. and what he then responded to me because i said it to him in those terms was to say, look, you know, this didn't happen on my watch. the involvement with the banks started, the whole t.a.r.p. program began on the watch of bush 43, so he was trying to dissuade people from the view that he wants a piece of everything. chris, i don't think that it's the fringe element that has that concern. i think that there are some republicans and some independents with whom he's lost ground who are concerned that, oh-oh this spending is really now taking on a quantum leap. >> why is radio right? >> well, i have a long answer, but the short version is because i believe that conservatives didn't feel as if they were wanted and had a home in traditional media outlets, and that explains the rush -- the rise, pardon me, decade-plus ago
of rush limbaugh. today, you know, it's hard, man, it's hard for a guy like me because i get branded a conservative. you know i have never held myself out that way. i have plenty of conservative views and plenty of liberal views, but i constantly feel like i'm swimming upstream because the people who tune in, they expect that that's what they're going to get, and, frankly, many of them are seeking that level of reassurance. i'm not there to offer you reassurance. i'm there to hopefully ask entertaining and probing questions and not to browbeat. >> let's take a look at some more of the president on your program. he's talking about misinformation. i wonder if that's his problem or his problem is people really do have a sense of what he's doing and a lot of people in the center right as well as the right don't want him to do it, which is increase the federal role in taking responsibility for insuring people's health. i'm not sure the right and center right are comfortable with this basic idea of taking national responsibility for people who are uninsured right now. here is the president talking about it. >> you mentioned illegal immigrants. this has been an example of just
pure misinformation out there. none of the bills that have been voted on in congress and none of the proposals coming out of the white house propose giving coverage to illegal immigrants. none of them. that has never been on the table, nobody has discussed it. so everybody who is listening out there, when you start hearing that somehow this is all designed to provide health insurance to illegal immigrants, that is simply not true and has never been the case. >> but here is the point, michael. why has it taken him until now to say that? because he doesn't want to offend people who are on the side of, quote, illegal immigrants. he doesn't want to offend that or undocumented workers as you want to call them. he doesn't want to offend that constituency. there's no confusion here. he's on their side generally. if he's not going to give them health care this time, that's the first time he hasn't been on the side of them. >> well, he by the way, was responding to a radio caller i think from indiana who raised that issue. that's another of those constants that you hear about.
now, there's a shred of truth in this though, chris, because there's a 1986 law on the books, i don't know what becomes of that law, that says if a person shows up in an e.r., they have to be treated. >> but that's not part of a health insurance program, going to an e.r. >> it's not. i raised that with the president and the president said the tape will speak for itself, what are we going to do? turn away someone who is in a perilous condition? you can't have that. but i think it's healthy -- let me say this, he came on my program and he knows that regardless of my views, the traditional caller is a conservative individual. there were no ground rules. the white house never said to me, keep him away from these questions. their attitude was open those phone lines and let's have at it. and i love the fact that he wants to be engaged in dialogue. get away from all that left versus right shout fest which i think benefits no one. what am i going home on the train thinking about today? i'm going home thinking it was a fabulous experience. i sat where fdr delivered fireside chats and there were no rules about what i could ask the president of the united states. >> are you taking that table cloth home with you? >> i took a few tablets and --
>> what was that paisley table cloth you put out there on that table? >> that's not me, pal. i told robert gibbs i was taking home a robe if i saw a white house robe i was taking it back to philly. >> let's take a look. here is some more of the president. this is a serious discussion. i can't resist. here he is talking about trying to do something really historic and how difficult it is. >> passing a big bill like this is always messy. fdr was called a socialist when he passed social security. jfk and lyndon johnson, they were both accused of a government takeover of health care when they passed medicare. this is the process that we go through because understandably the american people have a long tradition of being suspicious of government. until the government actually does something that helps them, and then they don't want anybody messing with whatever gets set up. >> michael, you've got a lot of republican listeners, i know that, and some middle of the
road people and a few libs, but let me ask you this, doesn't it seem clear to you that the republican strategy now is scorched earth? destroy this guys chances. if he wins, they lose. therefore, they want him to lose. if he doesn't get a health care bill through this year, the republicans will have a good christmas. >> i don't know that the republicans have a strategy. i don't know that what's going on out there is necessarily being directed by the republicans as much as it's being stirred by folks who do what i do for a living. and, you know, what's a shame is there are folks out there who are not birthers, they're not on the fringe, they are middle of the road folks like me who have legitimate concerns, and, you know, they get shouted down in this whole process or are cast with aspersions because of those who are on the fringe. i guess what i'm trying to say is there's reason for good healthy discussion and debate. i hope we can have it free of some of the climate that's been going on which i think is counterproductive for everybody. >> remember the french and indian war, michael, if i were an englishman fighting that war against the french and indians,
i'd blame the french if i get scalped by one of the indians, so you can't deny your allies buddy. if they're on your side you have to be responsible for them. there are a lot of crazies on the right, the birthers and people carrying guns and you can't act like they're not part of your allegiance f they're on your side politically, they're your fault. >> i remember during the campaign where you would get these individuals who would make reference to the new president by referencing his middle name, and i always knew it was a cheap shot and i always said the gop should cut loose whoever that person was who thought they were going to stir up the crowd with that. it's counterproductive, and in this case, you know, it may come back to haunt -- >> when they're running around waving scalps in the air saying they defeated the president, a lot of republicans who make money being republicans are going to be cheering, i'll bet you. michael smerconish, thank you. congratulations on the scoop. you got the president. up next senator john ensign says his affair is different from bill clinton's affair with monica lewinsky. talk about splitting hairs. well, we'll give you his reasons
in the "sideshow" where it belongs. you're watching "hardball." there's always funny stuff in the "sideshow," coming up in a minute. during times like these it seems like the world will never be the same. but there is a light beginning to shine again. the spark bega where it always begins. at a restaurant downtown. in a shop on main street. a factory around the corner. entrepreneurs like these
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back to "hardball." time for the "sideshow." first, it was legal. senator john ensign, the republican from nevada, says that his extramarital affair with his staffer's wife was on a higher plane than the one president clinton had with his staffer in the white house. here is the senator's case. he didn't lie under oath about the matter. president clinton did. quote, president clinton stood right before the american people and he lied to the american people. you remember that famous day he lied to the american people. plus, the fact i thought he suborned perjury. that's why i voted for the articles of impeachment. isn't nice to have a standard you can always rise above. it lends you a bit of moral authority in the clinch.
check this out, karl rove has just been named to the scandinavian american hall of fame. wow, is that the nordic version of the ancient order of hibernians? time now for tonight's "big number." i got that award. yesterday afternoon president obama invited 17 current and retired nascar drivers to the white house to honor nascar champ jimmie johnson. according to the politico this isn't the first time the drivers have dipped their toes in political waters. since the '80s those nascar invitees have given $113,000 to republican candidates or campaign committees of the republican party. how much do you think the nascar crowd gave to democrats over those many years? 29 years. zero, zip, nada. when it comes to the democrats, nascar don't have a nickel, nothing, to give the democrats. that's tonight's "big number." be sure to stay up tonight. i will be a guest on "the colbert report." c-o-l-b-e-r silent t. up next, senator ted kennedy
wants massachusetts lawmakers to change the law to allow the governor of the state -- of the commonwealth to appoint his successor. you're watching "hardball" only on msnbc. when i was seventeen i was not good to my skin. long summer days and not enough sleep. what i wouldn't do for a do-over. (announcer) new neutrogena total skin renewal. gentle exfoliating puffs and micro-vibrations speed surface cell turnover. it's clinically tested to help undo the look of a year's worth of skin aging in just one week. that summer of sun? i just made it disappear. (announcer) new total skin renewal. neutrogena recommended most by dermatologists. do-overs do exist.
i'm melissa rayburger. a convicted terrorist released from a scottish prison is back in his homeland of libya tonight. they released abdul aymangrahi. he was the only person convicted of the lombing over lockerbie scotland. voter turnout appeared lighter than in 2004. election officials say scattered violence may have kept voters away from the polls today. at least 26 afghans were killed in a number of attacks. cash for clunkers calling it
quits. the department of transportation says it will end the popular trade-in program at 8:00 monday night. they fund red bait deals worth almost $2,000. a strong rebound in the chinese market. the dow jones industrials added nearly 71 points and the nasdaq gained 20. back to "hardball." welcome back to "hardball." here is "the boston globe's" banner headline this morning. quote, kennedy looking ahead urges that senate seat be filled quickly. the senator wants massachusetts to have two votes in the senate if he's unable to be one of the votes. he sent a letter to the massachusetts governor, governor deval patrick, and other state leaders urging them to, quote, provide for a temporary gubernatorial appointment until the special election occurs.
in a statement today the governor responded, it's typical of ted kennedy to be thinking ahead and about the people of massachusetts when the rest of us are thinking about him. with us now are columnist sam allis and reporter neil swidney of "the boston globe," both of whom helped write "the last lion: the fall and rise of ted kennedy." sam, my friend, i have to ask you this question, what is it about massachusetts law that's so strange that you don't have a simple appointment to fill the spot like there was back in the 1960s when jack kennedy was elected president followed by the election at the regular time in november of the next cycle. why not do it the regular way? >> why would you expect something simple out of massachusetts politics? this yeasty world of politics. in order to protect the two votes, what senator kennedy is essentially doing with some desperation is an attempt at an end run around the law that was passed in 2004 rammed through by the democrats here that would have -- that changed precisely what he wants now to a governor to appoint somebody and make it a five-month later election, special election. and so this is coming around to
bite the democrats. he is haunted by what happened last time, and he's trying to change it and most democrats, i think, are hiding under their beds. they don't want to touch this one. it's already got a gamey history, and you hear these comments and none of them have touched the substance of what senator kennedy is asking for. >> well, you get in this. what happens if senator kennedy has to resign or he passes away, he's in bad health, something happens and that seat is vacant? does that mean the democrats in washington will be with 59 votes instead of 60 right through the entire debate and final discussion and voting on health care? looks like it. >> well, that law that sam referred to provides within five months there would have to be a new election called. so there would be no one in place unless that's changed. >> so what are the democrats actually saying when you go out and report this story? how can they justify not fixing this baby? why don't they just fix it and say we made a mistake. it was because mitt romney was in office and they didn't him to
make the appointment. now we have a democratic governor, and we want him to make the appointment. just admit you're political. sam, you take this one. you can handle this. you're a columnist. why not just admit it, hey, we're politicians, okay? >> because they looked so gamey last time, chris, they don't want to look even worse today. >> won't they look worse if something happens to ted kennedy and i find yourself with massachusetts with one vote instead of two? won't that look worse? nobody even knows about this thing now. now they're all going to know about it if you blow it. >> but no matter how much they love ted kennedy, and they do adore him, i think people are drawing a line at once again passing legislation to help one individual. i think that sits badly right now, no matter how much they'd like to do it. >> let me ask you about -- what is the word on the senator's health? it's not too good, is it? >> no, but it varies hugely. one day we hear he's on a morphine drip and slipping fast. the next day we see he's being taken out for a sail.
he's in horrible shape. we all know that, and beyond that i don't think anybody knows the details except the family. >> okay. your report, any reporting on that, neil, that's going to come out? nothing new, right? just very protective -- i'm impressed by the kennedy family's ability to protect him from us. from press coverage. he has had a measure of privacy these last couple of months. >> he has. as sam said, there are conflicting reports, but the inner circle is really tight right now and they're keeping the message tight. i want to get back to one thing you had said before about the 1960s because this temporary appointment, a seat warmer appointment that ted kennedy is asking for is really kind of what paved the way for his entry into the senate, as you know, back in the '60s. >> i know. gentlemen, thanks for coming on. sam allis, thank you for this. it's great to hear from massachusetts and how the politicians are up there. isn't it ironic the greatest senator, the greatest senator in the last 30 or 40 years can't
vote on the most important legislative issue since the civil rights bill? it's pretty sad. thank you. that's a bipartisan assessment, by the way. you have seen the advertisements on this network for next thursday's premiere of our documentary on the kennedy brothers. it's an hour i want you all to watch. it's history. it's taken us a good deal of time, research, and study to produce what i think is a stunning look at these historic brothers, joseph kennedy, jr., john f. kennedy, robert f. kennedy, and ted kennedy. all of whom at one point in their lives sought the american presidency. here is a look at the role of the youngest of the kennedy brothers. this will be in the documentary next thursday night. >> of the four kennedy brothers, ted, the youngest was the most connected to the others. in 1946 the family gathered in hyannisport to celebrate jack's 29th birth kay. when teddy rose to speak, the 14-year-old raised his glass and said, i'd like to drink a toast to the brother who isn't here. he stunned the room into silence. >> i think the three of them were not only a kind of band of
brothers all their own in mythologist but in reality. >> whatever your politics i think it's unimaginable to have lived in this country the last 40 years without the kennedys. they made their impact. they were tough, and they made a difference. they took our breath away. we'll talk about the kennedys next thursday night here on msnbc. i hope you'll watch it next thursday and friday night at 7:00 eastern. up next, tom ridge's disclosure he was pushed to raise the terror threat, you know, from yellow to orange on the very weekend of the 2004 re-election of president bush. who in that white house was pushing for that? which cabinet members? we'll talk about that. well, they certainly include rumsfeld and ashcroft. no surprise there. they were pushing for the code red rise. apparently according to tom ridge to get the guy re-elect. we have "the politics fix" coming up right now. this is "hardball" only on msnbc.
of control this summer and what does it mean? and what does it mean right now in this fight for health care reform? is it lost? "hardball" returns with "the politics fix" coming up next. to use legalzoom for important legal documents. at legalzoom, we'll help you incorporate your business, file a patent, make a will and more. you can complete our online questions in minutes. then we'll prepare your legal documents and deliver them directly to you. so start your business, protect your family, launch your dreams. at legalzoom.com we put the law on your side. ...or if you're already sick... ...or if you lose your job. your health insurance shouldn't either. so let's fix health care. if everyone's covered, we can make health care as affordable as possible. and the words "pre-existing condition" become a thing of the past... we're america's health insurance companies.
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ask your doctor if cialis is right for you, so when the moment is right, you can be ready. welcome back to "hardball." time for "the politics fix." joining us now politico's roger simon and politicsdaily.com's melinda henneberger. back by popular demand, melinda, you were quite a hit the last time you were on. here is the question for you starting with roger, the old hand here. roger, this ridge book, when you actually look at it in the book, not reading it on some press release, and you figure the guy, the former secretary of homeland security, a member of the bush team right up through the election, the re-election 2004,
actually put his hand to this and basically said it was politics was at work as they were deciding what code to put the country on alert at right the weekend before the election with that osama bin laden tape facing us in the face, it's pretty stunning. >> it is stunning in that it confirms what many of us believed at the time, that the one theme that bush had for his re-election was vote for me or die. that was his message -- >> yeah. >> john kerry is not a bad man. he's just a naive man. he can't deal with the terrorists, you know. a vote for him and you're going to wake up and you'll be killed. the terrorists will invade. and it was carried out even to the extent of apparently seriously discussing raising the national threat level. >> and they're reaching for the joy buzzer every two seconds it looks like in this crowd. you know, something to zing you with. you know, nice to meet you, zing. we're going up to code red tonight. melinda, it's amazing, he said,
listen to this quote in here. it seemed possible to me and others around the table, this is in the situation room at the white house going over what to do to save the country from osama bin laden, that something could be afoot other than simple concern for the country's safety, and this showed there was an intersection of politics in all this business. it's right in the book. it's coming out in two weeks. melinda? >> this is what a lot of people, of course, said at the time was going on, so it confirm what is a lot of us did think, but i don't think he really covers himself with glory in saying this now. it is very much like colin powell, you know. if he felt like maybe he should have stepped down at the time, maybe that should have been the right decision. i don't know how interested people are at this point in tom ridge's dark night of the soul and i don't know that there's political fallout because what he's talking about happened five years ago, each though you
certainly could argue, well, they were playing politics of fear then, and they're doing it again now with health care. but i'm not sure those dots will be connected. >> isn't this going to add to the american people's general cynicism about politics, roger? my own uncle, he was a plumber. no matter it's like everything else. and it just seemed to cover all the bases back then, roger, and the people are going to hear this and say, ridge says they were playing games with national security on that alert system and somebody is probably going to say somewhere, it's like everything else. these guys. >> if you can add to the level of cynicism about politics, this will add to it. but i've also got to say for as bad as this was, i think tom ridge was the only person in america who actually cared about the alert system. i mean, we never knew what to do when it was yellow. >> what did you do? >> we never knew what to do when it was orange. you would turn on the radio and hear there was an amber alert and be confused even more. >> there it is. we're looking at it. melinda, how did you change your weekend lifestyle when told it was going to be yellow instead of orange that weekend before the election? i mean, do you wear brown? i mean, what do you do?
i mean, do you wear flashy colors that day? >> the plan was duct tape and bottled water as i recall, wasn't it? remember the duct tape? >> i love the duct tape. if you actually got a successful duck tape there would be no air coming in and you would die. >> it's like if the witch was guilty, she sank. right. >> i always liked that one. we'll be right back to talk about health care which also seems to be in code red right now with roger simon and melinda henin berger on msnbc. ththththth
or visit a td ameritrade branch. welcome back to "hardball." joining us is roger simon and melinda henneberger. i must say you were quite a hit last time you were on. here's the question for you. of course, starting with roger, the old hand here, roger, this ridge book, when you actually look at it in the book, not reading it on some press release, and you figure that the guy, the former secretary of homeland security, member of the bush team right up through the election, the re-election 2004 put his hand to this and basically said it was politics was at work as they're deciding what code to put the country on alert at right the weekend before the election with that osama bin laden tape facing us in the face, it's pretty stunning. >> it is stunning. in that it confirms what many of
us believed at the time that the one theme that bush had for his re-election was vote for me or die. that was his message from the convention on. john kerry is not a bad man. he can't deal with the terrorists. a site for him and you will wake up and be killed. the terrorists will invade. it was carried out even to the extent of apparently seriously discussing raising the national threat level. >> they're reaching for the joy buzzer every two seconds it looks like in this crowd. something to zing you with. nice to meet you, zing. going up to code red tonight. melinda, it's amazing he said -- look for this quote, underlined it "it seemed possible to me and others around the table, this is in the situation room at the white house going over what to do to save the country from osama bin laden that something could be afoot other than simple concern for the country's safety" and this showed there was intersection of politics in all this business. right in the book.
it's coming out in two weeks. melinda? >> this is what a lot of people, of course, said at the time was going on, so it confirms what a lot of us did think, but i don't think he really covers himself with glory in saying this now. it is very much like colin powell to, you know, if he felt like maybe he should have stepped down at the time, maybe that would have been the right decision. i just -- i don't know how interested people are at this point in tom ridge's dark night of the soul. and i don't know that there's political fallout because what he's talking about happened five years ago, even though you certainly could argue, well, they were playing politics then and they're doing it again now with health care, but i'm not sure those dots will be connected. >> isn't this going to the add to the american people's general cynicism about politics? roger my own uncle was a plumber. no matter what happened that went bad, he always said the same thing. it's like everything else. it's like everything else. and it just seemed to cover all
the bases back then, roger, and the people are going to hear this and say, ridge says they were playing games with national security on that alert system and somebody is probably going to say somewhere, it's like everything else. these guys. >> if you can add to the level of cynicism about politics, this will add to it. but i've also got to say, for -- as bad as this was, i think tom ridge was the only person in america would actually cared about the alert system. i mean, we never knew what to do when it was yellow. >> what did you do? >> we never nua to do when it was orange. you would turn on the radio and hear there was an amber alert and be confused even more. >> ha. there it is. we're looking at it. melinda, how did you change your weekend lifestyle when told it was going to be yellow instead of orange that weekend before the election? i mean, do you wear brown? i mean, what do you do? i mean do you wear flash are colors that day. >> as i recall the plan was duct tape and bottled water as i recall, wasn't it? remember the duct tape? >> i love the duct tape. they said if it succeeded you would have suffocated. if you actually got a successful
duck tape there would be no air coming in and you would die. >> it's like if the witch was guilty, she sank. right. >> i always liked that one. anyway we'll be right back to talk about health care. >> he still has some time and, you know, i have every confidence that he'll close the deal because at bottom, that is what people want and, yet he does need to do what roger said. he can't just go out there with this vague, diffuse message when the other side really does, once again, have just a few words. government takeover. death panels, we know what that is and you listen to obama for an hour and you're still not sure exactly what to take away. >> could this be the choice he has to make, go with something about reform, in other words, do asking on pre-existing conditions and the system we have right now and hold off on extending health care to the poor people and the working people later? roger, does he have to decide to cut bait right now or go for whole hog and maybe jam it
through the senate. >> nonstarter with the democratic party. universal health care is one of the pillars of what the democratic party stands for. a large part of the party -- not going to allow it. >> roger and melinda, thanks. now it's time for "the he had show" with ed shut. which of these stories will be talking about tomorrow, the president goes all dr. dick solomon on us. >> like the belt and suspenders concept to keep up your pants. you know, if you -- the insurance reforms are the belt. the public option can be the suspenders. >> also goes on conservative radio to insist chuck grassley and other repubs are dedicated on this. >> i want to give them a chance to work through these processes. >> oh, they've already been given a chance, all right, mr. president. any chance "the wall street journal" is right and the dems
will split the bill, the no-brainer stuff in one part to let them help they pretend the reform, the suspenders, in the other. the nexus of politics and terror confirmed. the first secretary of homeland security tom ridge admits what he had previously only hinted at, that cockamamie color coded terror threat system he was pushed to raise it on the eve of the 2004 presidential election. even he knew it was politically motivated. john dean on the verification from the official in the bush administration that mr. bush used fear of terrorism for political gain. which is itself terrorism. a new nexus, the cia assassination team, the gang that couldn't shoot al qaeda straight. it was supposed to be outsourced to blackwater. worse, glen beck suspended for calling the president a racist? and worse at even spouting his own talking points. tom delay. >> will you as